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HOMEWORK INTERVENTIONS 1
Running Head: HOMEWORK INTERVENTIONS
University of Utah
Training School Psychologists to be Experts in Evidence Based Practices for Tertiary
Students with Serious Emotional Disturbance/Behavior Disorders
US Office of Education 84.325K
August 11, 2010
“Homework, defined as tasks assigned to students by teachers that are
intended to be completed during nonschool hours” (Cooper, 1989, p. 7), is a
common technique used to help students build upon skills that were taught in the
classroom. Interventions directed towards homework are strategies used to help
students complete their homework and complete it accurately. By completing their
homework, students will gain more time to practice the skills taught in the
classroom and theoretically extend their knowledge of educational materials. This
article further discusses the history, characteristics, attitudes, and future research
considerations of homework and homework interventions.
HOMEWORK INTERVENTIONS 3
“Homework is intended to establish effective study habits and skills; to help
children plan and be proactive; to aid in developing time management, self-control,
and discipline; to extend the learning environment from the classroom to other out-
of-school settings; and to demonstrate responsible behaviors” (Sheridan, 2009, p.
334). Homework has can also be used to “build student responsibility, fulfill
administrative directives, provide parents with information about the curriculum,
and to punish students” (Cosden, Morrison, Albanese, & Macias, 2001 p. 211).
While the face validity of homework seems promising, homework can be
detrimental to student’s who fail to master behavioral and environmental routines
that create conditions and patterns conducive for optimal performance. While some
students may gain greater information and develop performance skills through
homework, some students may lose motivation and fall behind their peers through
their lack of performance on homework assignments. Because of the possible
detrimental consequences to students who do not complete their homework, or fail
to complete it accurately, intervention procedures need to be implemented for the
students who struggle to provide a better opportunity to succeed.
Homework may be common in the lives of students today but throughout
history, homework has been, and remains, a controversial issue. In the early 1900’s,
many viewed homework as a waste of time for students (Bryan & Sullivan-Burstein,
1998). Throughout the century, homework was a debated topic due to a lack of
research on its effectiveness and when it should be used. More recent research has
shown homework to be an effective teaching method under certain circumstances
(Axelrod, Zhe, Haugen, & Klein, 2009; Cosden, Morrison, Albanese, & Macias, 2001;
Cooper, Lindsay, Nye, & Greathouse, 1998).
A predominant reason for teachers to assign homework is to promote
greater achievement and better attainment of classroom material for students
(Rhoades & Kratochwill, 1998; Trautwein, Niggli, Schnyder, & Ludtke, 2009). Recent
studies have shown that homework and achievement is moderated by grade level
(Cooper, Lindsay, Nye, & Greathouse, 1998; Axelrod, Zhe, Haugen, & Klein, 2009;
Olympia, Sheridan, Jenson, & Andrews, 1994). More specifically, homework is more
effective at promoting achievement at secondary grade levels when compared to
elementary levels. This is not to say that homework at the elementary level is not
effective. Cosden et al. (2001) reported that homework might serve many functions
at the elementary level including promoting greater study habits and establishing a
connection between the home and the school.
How students go about their homework is also a controversial issue. Chen
and Stevenson (1989) reported compared to two Chinese cities and one Japanese
city to American students. They found in elementary school, American students
receive the least amount of homework, as well as the least amount of family help.
Family support may serve a variety of functions in homework and can either be
positive or negative influence for the student. Miller and Kelley (1991) research on
parental involvement in the homework process found that parental support can be
positive, particularly when parents are taught to provide accurate and constructive
feedback and to interact in a reinforcing manner during homework sessions.
HOMEWORK INTERVENTIONS 5
Parental support can be harmful if parents do not have the time or skills required to
help their student with their homework; the student may experience frustration and
a reduction in the amount of external rewards for completing their homework.
Hill and Tyson (2009) found the effectiveness of parental influence on
homework is also moderated by the student’s grade level. They argue while direct
homework strategies, such as school-based involvement and direct homework
assistance, may be useful at younger ages, these direct strategies may be needed less
in older students. They go on to express that at older ages, indirect parental
involvement that creates an understanding about the purposes, goals, and meanings
of academic performance; communicates expectations about involvement; and
provides strategies that students can effectively use have the strongest positive
relation with achievement. Other factors that affect homework are the “home
environment; the influence of parents, siblings and friends; and the existence of
other activities that compete for attention and time of the children” (Rowell & Hong,
2002, p. 286).
Research has shown that homework completion is not the only important
factor with homework; a reasonable level of accuracy is needed to promote greater
achievement in homework and in the classroom (Miller & Kelley, 1991). Moreover,
students who spend large amounts of time on homework are not necessarily
benefitting from the extended amount of time they put into completing it (Rowell &
Hong, 2002). Due to the many factors that affect a student’s homework abilities, and
the positive outcomes proper homework completion can have on a student’s
achievement, adequate homework interventions may be needed for students who
struggle to complete their homework, or to complete their homework accurately.
Characteristics of Homework Interventions
Interventions are any type of research-validated procedures that are
designed to change a behavior by teaching a new skill or by manipulating the
antecedents or consequences of the behavior (Jenson, 2010). Homework
interventions intend to change behaviors relating homework. Prominent reasons for
applying homework interventions are due to a student’s subpar level of completion
of homework or the lack of accuracy with homework. Interventions may be applied
to help students learn to complete their homework in more productive ways or to
manipulate what comes before/after the student engages in the homework
behavior. According to Gureaski-Moore, Dupaul, and White (2007), there are three
primary categories which homework interventions can be placed: Parental
Management, School-Based Management, and Self-Management.
Parental management interventions, or strategies directed towards parents
to help their student’s homework behaviors is moderated by grade level (Hill &
Tyson, 2009). This indicates that interventions directed towards the parents of the
student’s who are struggling with homework should take into account the student’s
grade level; different interventions will be effective at different grades. Miller and
Kelley (1991) also found parental support to be positive when it is correctly
HOMEWORK INTERVENTIONS 7
provided to the student. Their research stressed the importance of providing
“accurate and constructive feedback and to the student and to also interact in a
reinforcing manner during the homework sessions” (p. 181). This can be difficult
with parents who lack the skills and/or resources to adequately provide support to
their student. This research also suggests that staff implementing homework
interventions consider the student’s home situation before being implemented.
Academic socialization, or parental involvement in education process, is
more positively correlated to achievement than home- or school-based involvement
(Hill & Tyson, 2009). Academic socialization may entail communicating parental
expectations for education and its value and utility, linking school work to current
events, fostering educational and occupational aspirations, discussing learning
strategies with students, or making preparations and plans for the future. By
promoting these strategies, parents can instill a sense of internal motivation in their
student to better succeed in the classroom.
School-based management interventions are any techniques implemented to
alter the school environment to provide for better achievement for a student. School
personnel look for fast-acting interventions for students that are effective at
improving the student’s ability to complete their homework. Therefore, school-
based management interventions should be effective, not time consuming, and
economically friendly to have a greater chance of being implemented in the school
(Axelrod, Zhe, Haugen, & Klein, 2009). Because parents should be inundated into all
decisions regarding homework intervention for their students, staff and parents
have the challenge of sharing information about the student and of developing
strategies to be used at school and at home to attain a better link between what the
child likes/needs to do to succeed (Rowell & Hong, 2002). For students with
persistent homework difficulties and negative attitudes toward homework, an
individual or small-group counseling intervention approach may be helpful.
The final category of homework interventions is self-management. Self-
management strategies include “monitoring one’s own behavior; evaluating one’s
own behavior relative to an objective standard; and rewarding one’s own behavior
contingent on behavior reaching a specific goal” (Gureasko-Moore, DuPaul, & White,
2007, p. 648). Axelrod et al. (2009) studied the effects of a home-based intervention
directed to the on-task behavior and homework completion rates of adolescents
with attention and behavior problems. They used a self-monitoring strategy: a
multistep process of observing and then recording one’s own behavior. They found
after having the student self-monitor in 3- or 10-minute intervals, the student’s
percentage of incomplete homework assignments decreased.
Olympia et al. (1994) incorporated a cooperative learning process with self-
management techniques to improve homework completion and accuracy. They
found using four different types of self-management strategies (self-monitoring,
self-instruction, self-evaluation, and self-reinforcement) and incorporating those
HOMEWORK INTERVENTIONS 9
into a team format where each student was assigned a specific role on a team,
improvements in homework completion were made.
There have also been numerous studies evaluating the effectiveness of self-
management strategies with disabled students (Bryan & Sullivan-Burstein, 1998;
Langberg, Epstein, Urbanowicz, Simon, & Graham, 2008; Merriman & Codding,
2008). These will be discussed in greater detail later.
Students and Homework Interventions
There are no defined assessment guidelines of students who are in need of
homework interventions. Some students may be more susceptible to homework
problems due to their disability, a lack of skills in academic areas, a lack of
motivation, or a lack of adequate study habit skills; to name a few (Langberg,
Epstein, Urbanowicz, Simon, & Graham, 2008; Cosden, Morrison, Albanese, &
Macias, 2001; Rowell & Hong, 2002; Lynch, Theodore, Bray, & Kehle, 2009). These
factors should be evaluated when assessing the necessity of a homework
intervention, as they can be valuable indicators of what may be the most effective
homework intervention for that particular student (Anesko, Schoiock, Ramirez, &
Defining when a student needs a homework intervention may also be at the
discretion of the teachers and parents of the student. There are no required
guidelines for monitoring the progress of students’ homework achievement but
such a strategy can be useful in determining the necessity of an intervention.
Assessment tools such as the Homework Problem Checklist may also be useful in
determining if a student is struggling with homework and if an intervention may be
warranted (Anesko, Schoiock, Ramirez, & Levine, 1987).
There have been no research studies to date on the prevalence rates of
homework interventions in schools. The lack of research in this area can be partially
attributed to the lack of adequate information of what characterizes a homework
intervention. It may also be attributed to the lack of monitoring of homework
interventions. With more adequate progress monitoring of students who are at-risk
for homework difficulties and students who are in need of homework interventions,
research can become clearer on the prevalence and need for homework
interventions within schools. What research has shown is that students of all
different ethnicities, religions, socioeconomic statuses and gender are susceptible to
homework difficulties and it will become increasingly important to provide
adequate support to students in need (Hill & Tyson, 2009).
Research on Homework Interventions
Meta-analytic research suggests a larger positive association between
homework completion and achievement for secondary students in comparison to
younger students (Cooper, Robinson, & Patall, 2006). This indicates although
interventions can be important at younger ages, a student’s ability to complete their
homework will be more associated with their achievement at secondary grade
levels. Research has shown that interventions at younger ages should be tailored to
aspects other than content material (Cosden, Morrison, Albanese, & Macias, 2001).
HOMEWORK INTERVENTIONS 11
Study skills and self-monitoring interventions have been shown to be effective ways
of intervening with younger aged students who are struggling with homework.
These techniques help improve skills directly and indirectly related to homework
such as organizational and classroom preparation skills (Axelrod, Zhe, Haugen, &
Klein, 2009; Gureasko-Moore, DuPaul, & White, 2007). Cosden et al. (2001) also
suggests it may be more important to provide emotional, social, and behavioral
support at younger ages because these supports may enhance future academic
Attention- Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) students have “difficulty
with attention, persistence, and organization. Behavioral problems, including lack of
self-control and emotional/behavioral regulation, often interfere with children’s
abilities to benefit from academic instruction and productivity” (Sheridan, 2009, p.
334), resulting in a student struggling to complete homework. She states there are
two types of homework problems ADHD students experience: inattention/
avoidance of homework and poor productivity/nonadherence with homework rules
(referring to issues with inputs and outputs required for accurate homework
performance). Diagnosing the problem area is important to provide adequate
assistance to the struggling student.
If a student is experiencing homework problems due to their inattention/
avoidance of homework, it will be important to build the student’s motivation to
complete their homework (Cosden, Morrison, Albanese, & Macias, 2001). A student
with ADHD may also experience poor productivity/nonadherence with homework
rules. Langberg et al. (2008) states that self-management strategies, such as skills
training interventions, “seem particularly appropriate for students with ADHD,
because these students may have significant impairments in organization and
homework management that may contribute to the observed difficulties in
academic achievement” (p. 408).
Failing to accurately record homework assignments and a lack of
organization of school materials, may contribute to the academic difficulties many
students with ADHD experience (Langberg, Epstein, Urbanowicz, Simon, & Graham,
2008). Other self-management strategies such as coaching (goal setting, self-
monitoring, performance feedback, and/or contingency management with the
assistance of a coach) have also been shown to be effective in improving students’
completion and accuracy in mathematics homework (Merriman & Codding, 2008).
Many students with learning disabilities have problems completing
homework assignments. Many have “difficulty with tasks that demand voluntary,
selective, and sustained attention, problems in self-monitoring and developing
learning strategies, and a tendency to have an external locus of control” (Bryan &
Sullivan-Burstein, 1998, p. 263-4). Lynch et al. (2009) reported, coupled with
attention problems, learning disabled students experience academic deficits,
HOMEWORK INTERVENTIONS 13
disorganization and need to be prompted more times to start/complete homework
assignments, placing these students at a greater risk for homework problems.
Bryan and Sullivan-Burstein’s (1998) two-year study used selected
reinforcement, real-life assignments (homework directed to make a link between
school and ordinary activities in their home lives), and a self-recording/graphing
system to find evidence-based interventions that can be directed to improve
homework completion and accuracy in students with a learning disability. They
found that overall, disabled students in the intervention group completed more
homework than their disabled peers in a control group. The real-life plus
reinforcement condition had the most significant effects when compared to baseline
in homework completion and test performance. They also found a self-recording
system had a positive effect while the self-graphing system had an additive effect for
the recording system.
Group contingencies can be valuable reinforcing or punishing intervention
techniques. They can conserve both time and resources by applying teaching
techniques to many students simultaneously. Stage and Quiroz’s (1997) meta-
analysis found group contingencies to be the most effective interventions at
decreasing disruptive behaviors in a public education setting. Because of its value, it
has been applied to students with homework difficulties (Lynch, Theodore, Bray, &
Kehle, 2009; Olympia, Sheridan, Jenson, & Andrews, 1994). There are three types of
group contingencies: independent contingencies are when the criteria, behaviors,
and rewards are the same for the class but reinforcement is based upon individual
performance of students; interdependent contingencies require the entire class to
meet a criterion, resulting in all students receiving the reinforcement; and
dependent contingencies are when the entire class is rewarded based on the
performance of one or a few of students (Lynch, Theodore, Bray, & Kehle, 2009).
Along with randomization, Lynch et al. (2009) studied the effects of group
contingencies on 5th grade students in a self-contained special education classroom.
They found all group contingencies (independent, interdependent, and dependent)
were successful in improving homework completion and accuracy rates; no group
contingency procedure was superior to one another for increasing homework
completion. With regard to homework accuracy, the interdependent group
contingency resulted in slightly better results than the independent and dependent
After School Assistance
For many students, extracurricular activities are a way of remaining
connected to friends at school in a structured environment. “Participation in
structured extracurricular activities, including athletics, drama, hobby clubs, youth
groups, student government, church activities, or academic-vocational clubs, in
contrast, have been positively associated with academic and social-emotional
functioning for high school students (Cosden, Morrison, Albanese, & Macias, 2001, p.
212). Research on such programs that offer academic support have also shown
HOMEWORK INTERVENTIONS 15
positive, yet interesting, results in reading, language arts, and mathematics subject
Cosden et al. (2001) studied after school academic support programs. Their
research reported, along with the academic benefits of completing homework, there
are also qualitative outcomes beneficial to students who complete homework. These
include a greater sense of esteem and confidence in academic abilities. They also
found the development of personal responsibility, the reinforcement of school
attachment and belonging, improvement of study skills and cognitive strategies, and
motivation to complete homework are mediating factors that are related to
homework completion and may be improved in an after school assistance program.
Cosden et al. (2001) dealt with students who were considered “at-risk” based
on their family’s income level. Their research indicated after school programs
offering homework assistance served as protective factors for low-income students
who participated. The low-income students in the intervention group showed an
arrested negative trajectory of school performance; the control at-risk students
showed a decrease in school performance. Interestingly, the research also reported
that middle-class students participating in the intervention group showed a
decrease in school performance. This was theorized to have occurred because the
after school program prevented the middle-class children from participating in
other after school enrichment activities that are often unavailable for low-income
children. Overall, after school academic assistance programs may provide a safety
net for students who have little structure or supervision but may produce iatrogenic
effects for students who are not in need of such a program.
Attitudes Towards Homework
It should be no surprise teachers’ viewpoints on homework can heavily
influence the amount of homework assigned to a student. Cooper et al. (1998)
studied teachers and students’ attitudes towards homework. Their research showed
a negative correlation between the amount of homework a teacher reported they
assigned and the attitude towards homework expressed by the student. Their study
also found, as students grow older, their own attitudes about homework play an
increasingly important role in how much homework they complete and in their class
grades. Moreover, at lower grades, more homework assigned by teachers may cause
poorer attitudes in student. This indicates if students do not form positive attitudes
about homework at younger ages, the students’ achievement levels may suffer later
in their education.
As indicated earlier, students’ attitudes towards homework is an important
factor in the homework they complete. Rowell and Hong’s (2002) homework model
broke down students’ individual differences in completing homework into two
categories: motivation and preference. Motivation is the “strength of motives that
explain the initial activation of the process of doing required homework
assignments and the strength of the learner’s motivation to perform homework.”
Preference “involves the degree to which the learner will proceed and continue
homework efforts until finished” (p. 287). When students have motivation to
HOMEWORK INTERVENTIONS 17
complete homework, and apply their own preferences to the homework process,
they are more likely to agree with the use of homework as a teaching technique.
During a student’s education experience, it is important for teachers, parents, and
the students themselves to both, build motivation in the student to complete
homework, and to recognize the student’s learning preferences.
Considerations of Future Research
There is much research to be done with homework interventions and ways of
making existing interventions more effective for students. An area that can receive
future research consideration is the prevalence rate of homework interventions in
schools. Determining the amount of students currently receiving interventions for
homework struggles can help determine issues such as delineating funding and time
resources to students in need. It is also important for professionals to monitor the
progress of students currently receiving homework interventions to more
accurately detect if specific interventions are being effective.
It is also important to create measures that better detect students in need of
homework interventions. Such measures as the Homework Problem Checklist have
been used in the past to determine if students are at-risk for homework problems
but there has yet to be firm guidelines established to determine when a student
should be receiving homework interventions. By setting such guidelines, more
effective procedures, along with better research, can take place.
Future research in providing interventions to differing ethnic populations
should also be completed to determine any differences in the way different ethnic
populations view and perform homework. This also can be completed for different
socioeconomic statuses and detecting any differences in homework between public,
charter, and private schools.
There has been a plethora of research completed on homework
interventions. Much research has given credibility to homework’s effectiveness in
improving a student’s achievement at upper grade levels while homework can serve
differing functions at younger grade levels such as developing study skills and
promoting communication between a student’s home and school. Homework can
also serve other functions such as building a relationship between a students’
interests and what is learned at school, expanding a student’s creativity, while also
being used as a punishing technique for inappropriate behaviors.
Research on attitudes of homework have shown that students who build
motivation and apply their own preferences to complete homework generally agree
with the use of homework as a learning technique and are better at completing their
homework. This makes these students less susceptible for developing future
homework difficulties and achievement problems.
Homework interventions have shown promise in effectively improving
students’ abilities to complete homework. Such interventions as group
contingencies, self-management, and after school assistance programs can help
HOMEWORK INTERVENTIONS 19
certain groups of students with their homework problems. Interventions have also
been shown to be effective with students who are more susceptible for developing
homework problems due to a psychological disorder such as attention-
deficit/hyperactivity disorder or a learning disorder.
As the body of research grows on effective interventions for homework
problems, it will be important for this research to be practiced. Factors such as time,
cost, and effectiveness of an intervention should be considered when putting
research-validated interventions into practice, as these are important characteristic
evaluated by teachers and parents. With homework becoming more prominent in
students’ lives, interventions tailored to a student’s individual needs will become
increasingly important to assist any students struggling to complete their
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